Mark D. Hersey

Mark D. Hersey

Mark D. Hersey

Associate Professor

U.S. South, Environmental and Agricultural History, Rural America, African American



My principal research interests lie in the fields of environmental, rural, and agricultural history, with a particular emphasis on the American South, most especially on Alabama and Mississippi. My first book, My Work Is That Of Conservation: An Environmental Biography of George Washington Carver (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2011), situated the agricultural and environmental work of George Washington Carver in the context of both the conservation movement of the early twentieth century and the environmental history of Alabama's Black Belt. The research for the book touched off the two projects that currently have my attention. The first centers on the physiographic Black Belt of Alabama and Mississippi and seeks to examine the connections between land use, race, and poverty in the region from its time as Creek, Choctaw and Chickasaw country through the end of the twentieth century. The second focuses on the long-neglected connections between ecology and agronomy in the Progressive Era, tracing the ways in which practitioners of the nascent science conceived of their work, especially its practical applications.


  • PhD with Honors in U.S. Environmental History, University of Kansas, 2006.
  • Bachelor of Arts in History, University of Alabama, 1997.


  • "My Work is that of Conservation: An Environmental Biography of George Washington Carver (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2011) One of Booklist's Top Ten Books on the Environment, 2012.
  • A Field on Fire: Perspectives on Environmental History and Its Future Inspired by Donald Worster, co-edited with Ted Steinberg (University of Alabama Press, forthcoming 2018).

Essays and Articles:

  •  “Of Mutual Dependence: History and the Natural Sciences,” Journal of Ecological History (forthcoming 2017), translated into Chinese."“The New South and the Natural World,” in Interpreting American History: The New South, James Humphreys, ed. (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 2017), 241-266. Co-authored with James C. Giesen.
  •  Environmental History in the Heart of Dixie,” Alabama Review 70 (April 2017): 99-111.
  •  “The Lay of the Land: Environmental History, the South, and Kentucky,” Register of the Kentucky Historical Society 115 (Spring 2017), 129-153.
  • “Slavery and the Landscape of a Dismal Empire,” Ohio Valley History 13 (Winter 2013): 77-82. (Review Essay.)
  • “Alabama’s 1907 Game Law: The Politics of Hunting,” Alabama Heritage (October 2015).
  • "'What We Need Is a Crop Ecologist': Ecology as an Agricultural Science in Progressive Era America," Agricultural History 85 (Summer 2011), 297-321.
  • ""The New Environmental Politics and Its Antecedents: Lessons from the Early Twentieth Century South," The Historian 72 (Summer 2010): 271-298. (Coauthored with James C. Giesen.)
  • ""Fortieth Anniversary of Earth Day," Chinese Social Science (April 2010), translated into Chinese.
  • ""'Their plows singing beneath the sandy loam': African American Agriculture in the Late-Nineteenth-Century South," in Dixie Ray Haggard, ed., African American Agriculture in the Nineteenth Century: People and Perspectives (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2010), 133-147."
  • "The Transformation of George Washington Carver's Environmental Ethic, 1896-1918" in Jeffrey Jordan, ed., Black Environmental Thought: Land, Power, and Sustainability (Washington, D. C.: Sustainable Agricultural Network and Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Engineering Service, 2009), 57-76.
  • ""Hints and Suggestions to Farmers: George Washington Carver and Rural Conservation in the South," Environmental History (April 2006): 239-268.


Recent Presentations

  • “A Model for Future Biographies in the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine?,” NSF Workshop: From “Missing Persons” to Critical Biographies: Reframing Minority Identity in the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine, Harvard University, October 13, 2016.
  • “A Field on Fire: Donald Worster and the Future of Environmental History,” at The Wealth of Nature, The Limits of Nature: Donald Worster and Environmental History, sponsored by the Center for Ecological History at Renmin University, Beijing, China, June 27-29, 2016.
  • Environmental History and the American South,” Annual Meeting of the Southern Historical Association, St. Louis, Missouri, November 2015.
  • “Environmental History: A Roundtable on the State of the Field,” Organization of American Historians, St. Louis, Missouri, April 16-19, 2015.
  • Reclaiming a Conservationist: George Washington Carver and the Dawn of American Conservation,” Inaugural George Washington Carver Lecture Series, Tuskegee University, October 30, 2014.
  • “Hunting, Identity, and Ecology in the Twentieth-Century American South,” Second World Congress of Environmental History, Guimarães, Portugal, July 11, 2014.
  • “‘The Major Application of Their Science’: Ecology, Agronomy, and the Emergence of a Land Grant Ethos,” Provo, Utah, June 21, 2014.
  • "'The Debatable Ground Between': Agricultural Ecology in the Progressive Era," Annual Meeting of the History of Science Society, Boston, Massachusetts, November 23, 2014.
  • “Southern Agricultural History: A Roundtable on the State of the Field,” Organization of American Historians, Atlanta, Georgia, April 10, 2014.
  • “If It All Blows Up and Goes to Hell: True Stories of People and Nature from the Black Belt,” CHASES Experiment Station, Starkville, Mississippi, March 28, 2013.
  • "Alabama's Third World?: Nature, Race, and Identity in the Physiographic Black Belt." American Historical Association, New Orleans, Louisiana, January 3, 2013.
  • "'The Practical Phases of Botany': Ecological Research at Land Grant Schools in the Progressive Era." Thinking Land Grants: A 'Cerebration' of the 150th Anniversary of the Morrill Land Grant Act, Starkville, Mississippi, October 5, 2012.
  • "From Cotton to Camo: Nature and Southern Identity in Alabama's Black Prairies." Annual Meeting of the American Society for Environmental History, Madison, Wisconsin, March 29, 2012.
  • Inaugural Holland Lecture in Environmental and Natural History, University of West Alabama, Livingston, Alabama. February 21, 2012.
  • "The Cowboy South: Cotton, Cattle, and Culture in Alabama's Black Belt during the New Deal Era." Annual Meeting of the European Society for Environmental History, Turku, Finland, June 29, 2011. 

Professional Associations

Professional Activities

  • Director, Center for the History of Agriculture, Science, and the Environment of the South (CHASES).
  • Convener, “The Wealth of Nature, The Limits of Nature: Donald Worster and Environmental History,” sponsored by the Center for Ecological History, Renmin University (Beijing, China, June 27-29, 2016).
  • Convener, “New Paths in Environmental History,” sponsored by the Filson Center and the University of Louisville (Louisville, Kentucky, October 8-10, 2015).
  • Executive Committee, Agricultural History Society, 2014 -2017.
  • Editor, H-Rural, December 2011-present.
  • Associate Editor for NEXUS: New Histories of Science, Technology, the Environment, Agriculture, and Medicine Series, University of Alabama Press, 2013-Present
  • American Society for Environmental History's Digital Communications Committee.

Public History Experience

  • Adviser for George Washington Carver National Monument's Interpretive Film Project, 2011-2014.
  • Listen to Dr. Hersey on PRI's Living on Earth here
  • Interim Project Director for Kansas History Online and This Week in KU History, 2006-2008 Kansas History Online and This Week in KU History
  • Associate Editor and Writer for Kansas History Online and This Week in KU History, 2001-2006.


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